Monday, October 23, 2017

Student savings: 10 ways to live thrifty in Victoria

September 20, 2017 by Felicia Santrossa, features writer

Living in Victoria is expensive. With the world discovering the beauty of the culture and the climate, housing prices have increased and the cost of living has risen dramatically. Everything from produce to beauty products has gotten more expensive. Pair that with the enormous expenses of being a student, and there’s a perfect storm of late payments, angry letters from the bank, and a life in the red.

This article isn’t about fixing one’s finances, but it does highlight plenty of options for doing things on the cheap at Camosun College and throughout Victoria. I’m not talking about the typical solutions such as brown bagging a lunch every day, biking or bussing, or going thrift-store shopping (although I highly recommend those). This is a guide to things a little more obscure, or, perhaps, not even heard of. Enjoy your penny pinching. As a student, it’s a way of life.

1: Kick some ass

Victoria Shorin Ryu Karate Shinkokai is offering free women’s self-defence workshops. Owner James Rault says he was inspired to do the workshops because he saw an opportunity for people to come in and get exposed to the self-defence aspect of karate.

“What happened was people came in, and we did a little seminar for them, we showed them a few self-defence moves, and it went over really well,” he says.

Rault emphasizes the need for repetition, as, like any skill, self-defence needs to be practiced. He says that it’s really important for people to understand that it’s not necessarily going to help them in a real-life situation when they come to a self-defence workshop and learn a couple of moves.

“Self-defence is something that needs to be practiced regularly, and it’s something that needs to be imprinted into your muscle memory, so it’s much more effective to train a martial art or martial arts regularly to get those moves and those self-defence applications imprinted into that muscle memory,” he says. “I stress that to the ladies when they’re here; I taught them four techniques with nicknames to make them easy to remember but stress the importance of regular practice.”

The workshop is happening in October and again every few months afterwards.

This story originally appeared in our September 20, 2017 issue.

2: Big screens, big savings

There are two ways to save money on the movies in Victoria, and I’m not talking about cheap Tuesdays at the big theatres.

On the last Wednesday of every month, the Victoria Public Market, located downtown, puts on a movie for the public, with admission by donation to a local charity. Program coordinator Kyla Pedlow says it’s an opportunity for people to see the Market in a different light, and says it’s nice for people to know the admission money is going to local charities instead of someone’s pocket.

“It’s a nice opportunity to support local, so a lot of businesses in the Market will stay open, and you can have your dinner here while you’re waiting for the movie to start,” she says. “Sutra in the Market is licensed, so you can also have a beer or a cocktail before the movie starts, so it’s just a nice little evening out.”

Then there’s the long-standing tradition of Movie Monday at the Eric Martin Pavilion, where movies dealing with mental illness, hidden indie gems, documentaries, and other films are unearthed for the pavilion’s patrons and the public. This is the passion project for Bruce Saunders, a former patient of the facility, who wanted to make movies accessible for people with mental illnesses, or for people who can’t afford to go to the local theatres. They sell popcorn for around a dollar at Movie Monday, and admission is by donation, which is all part of keeping it affordable.

“It does run partly on donations, partly on Canadian Council for the Arts; we get some funding from VIHA, as well, because it’s a health-related event,” he says. “Many of our events are directly health-related. Just having people come out every Monday to be part of an audience and sit and enjoy a movie and talk about it is a health-related event in itself.”

Saunders says that a film about a certain issue, such as mental illness, can often help to change people’s opinions on the issue, and he’s astonished at how films open people’s minds and get them thinking and asking questions.

“If you’re emotionally engaged in a story—a hypothetical story or a real story—it brings people into the zone where they can really open their minds and learn about something in a way that stays with them more than statistics and seeing a presentation,” he says. “It’s been part of the modus operandi over the years, but it’s just nice to see people coming and enjoying a film, and talking about it, and finding company and finding people that are interested in talking about stories.”

3: Eat, drink, and be merry! For cheap!

The need for cheap food or entertainment when going out as a student is paramount. However, how does one find a place to eat or drink for cheap on any particular day? Cheapeatsvictoria.ca works best; the site shows where good deals on meals, drinks, and other pub-related entertainment can be found at dozens of restaurants and pubs, from the Bleue Coyote Bar and Grill in Brentwood Bay to Ma Miller’s in Langford (and locations closer to where you probably live), every day of the week. Now there’s no need to squabble over where to eat on a Wednesday after 9 pm. (Similarly, an app to have handy is GetintheLoop, which provides you with coupons for many local businesses.)

First-year Science student Lyla Boudewyn says a good, cheap place to eat is the El Furniture Warehouse Victoria, where most of the food menu is $4.95. (It’s also where, if you’re feeling generous, you can buy a meal for the less fortunate for the same price.)

First-year University Transfer student Jennifer Jap says a fun activity to do with friends is going to the Esquimalt Flying Squirrel Neon Lights nights, where the trampoline fun park turns into a night club of sorts on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 pm to midnight.

“For three hours you pay $25, when it’s usually one hour for $20, so it’s a really good deal,” she says. “It’s super fun, you get to bounce around for a while, and it’s really good. It gets a sweat out of you.”

4: Get charged, re-charged

Lots of benefits await students who exercise: increased concentration, less stress, and, eventually, a healthier body. While school is stressful, don’t sweat it: both Camosun campuses have gyms, which can get students exercising, boosting those endorphins, and ridding themselves of dreaded cortisol. Wait, what? The Lansdowne campus has a gym? Where? Lower those eyes, because it’s tucked in the basement of the Young Building. Students get free membership—which includes personal training—at the fitness centres at the Lansdowne and Interurban campuses. This is something that students looking for a one-time sweat session for exorcising the stress demon and Chargers team members getting in shape for the next big game alike will want to take advantage of.

The free exercise-related services extend further than the gym. If you’re in the mood to catch the Camosun Chargers men’s or women’s volleyball or basketball team play a game, there’s no admission fee for students, except for parking at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence on weekdays (see camosun.ca/sports/chargers for more info). Consider it a thrifty, school-spirit-boosting event out while saving those precious dollars for textbooks, student loans, and food.

5: Meatless Mondays… or, any days

Let’s face it: meat is expensive. Why? The sheer amount of resources used—including water, land, feed, medicine, and transportation—to provide billions of people with meat crank up its price, while also providing major amounts of the world’s greenhouse gases. If people decide to eat less meat, they will be saving more than just dollars in their pocket—they will also reducting that contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Second-year Exercise and Wellness student Sarah Ball says that she learned in class that people eat more meat than they really need to, so cutting down on it would not be a bad thing.

“In my anatomy and physiology classes, I learned that, possibly, when you look at a plate, a quarter of it would need to be meat, half of it would be vegetables, and a quarter of it would need to be starch,” she says.

A variety of vegetables and legumes can substitute for the protein provided by meat, she says; examples I found were beans, lentils, and eggplants, among others. Stuck for recipes? Make a stir-fry and throw the vegetables in there.

Even if you don’t cut out meat altogether, forgoing it for at least one day of the week would eliminate a decent amount from your grocery bill, and perhaps put a bit of your guilty ecological conscience to rest.

6: Let the newbies train on you

Another option for students in need of services on the cheap is getting those services done by students, as the price is often lower. Students can get dental work done here at Camosun at the Dental building, located at the Lansdowne campus. From September to April, students (and employees, and the public) can get a variety of services—from cleanings to X-rays—done to their teeth for much cheaper than the cost of going to a dentist, if you don’t have coverage. Initial screening is free, with the first adult appointment being $60, decreasing to $40 for each subsequent appointment. Children are also allowed appointments with prices relative to age.

Happen to be out in Saanichton and need a haircut? Perfect! Head down to the ILC Studio 63; students of the SD63/Vancouver Island University teaching salon cut, style, and iron hair and perform scalp massages for a $5 donation.

A massage is a wonderful thing for students in need of some stress alleviation. However, most professional massages cost at least $50 for a half-hour session. A massage at the West Coast College of Massage Therapy costs $32 for a 75-minute appointment, with mandatory assessments done before and after, according to their website. Done by interns of the college, a relaxing and possibly therapeutic session can be enjoyed without the anxiety of having to pay big bucks, which can make all the difference. One thing to note: according to the website, due to legalities, they are unable to provide services to those with open ICBC/WCB claims, or to anyone with a litigation pending due to personal injury.

7: Grow your own

Thanks to Victoria’s climate, you can grow fruits and vegetables nearly year-round, saving plenty of money. Well, if you have a greenhouse. However, most people don’t have the space (or time) for such money-maximizing endeavours. Don’t count yourself out, though, if you don’t own any green space.

A small apartment sundeck (or, heck, even a windowsill) can provide one of the easiest ways to save a small bit of the green stuff while growing some of the other green stuff: plant some herbs in a pot or planter box. Many grocery stores sell, for example, little basil, rosemary, and parsley plants. Who knows? It could be the beginning of a green thumb and a chance to develop the agricultural skills that enabled the human race to flourish.

Second-year Medical Radiography Technology student Rebecca Battilana says she’s saved $20 on her groceries from growing her own herbs and lettuce in the past couple months. She says she discovered how to recycle kitchen scraps through a video on Facebook, and she tried planting the leftover end of lettuce (it grew really well, she says).

“I know herbs also grow really well if you just cut off the bottom bits, and by doing that we were able to grow them on our sundeck, or, if it’s too hot, in shadier places, like in the kitchen,” she says.

8: Think twice before tossing

In this consumer-based society, the pressure to throw away and buy more is massive. But, aside from the environmental concerns, it’s one of the worst ways to lose your money. So don’t throw out old yogurt containers just because they’re empty; they can be used for storing just about anything. While the old adage is “reduce, reuse, recycle,” the most important aspect is reusing. And this isn’t limited to containers: food waste blackens our society. If there is some produce, such as lettuce or spinach, getting old and limp in your fridge, put it in a stew, for example. Plenty of options can be found online for reusing food; another suggestion is reusing old chicken bones and vegetable peelings, like the ends of beans, carrots, and potatoes, for making soup broth. It may be old fashioned, but if it works on keeping costs down, I’m all for it.

Bread is a food staple for a lot of us, and we buy lots of it (baking your own takes a bit of time but can cut down on those costs considerably). But what to do if there’s a staleness gripping your loaf? Slice it up and have instant breadcrumbs or makeshift croutons for salads. Additionally, various Italian recipes that you can find online—from soups to toast—are dedicated to stale bread.

9: Go clubbing

There are tons of student clubs at Camosun; according to the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS) website, “everyone is welcome to join any club.” There are many, many clubs students can join: cycling, Toastmasters, video games, outdoor adventures, you name it. People can learn employable skills, hang out with students with shared interests, and take part in exciting events, all without having to spend exorbitant amounts of money.

Clubs offering events for students off campus usually make those events free or at a discounted rate, says CCSS clubs and events coordinator Tagg Kelt.

“For example, our Outdoor Adventure Club, we go rock climbing, and we’ve bargained a rate with the place where we go rock climbing, so it’s a better rate than if you just walk off the street,” he says. “If you’re into rock climbing, joining the Activity Club or the Outdoor Adventure Club is just saving you some money for things you already like.”

Clubs operating on campus, like the Video Game Club, can also provide free entertainment. Kelt says that these clubs can provide “low-barrier types of things” where “people can just show up and participate in it, blow off some steam for 20 minutes, and then head on their way.”

10: Do it yourself

Nothing is more heartfelt than a gift from someone who has poured their heart into it. It can be as simple as a note on a folded sheet of white paper to brighten someone’s spirits. Have some old scraps of paper lying around? They’re perfect for creating a birthday or anniversary card. For cheap pops of colour, use inexpensive pencil crayons, gel pens, and other craft-related items. If you’re wanting to jazz up the fonts, take a page from the classic ransom note and use words and letters from old flyers and magazines.

For homemade gifts, give someone a jar of specific dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, and baking soda; they’re ingredients for a baking session for a soon-to-be delicious homemade gift of whatever sweet the receiver desires.

A suggestion from first-year University Transfer student Linnea Leist is making “open me when” jars for people. The jars have phrases such as “Open me when you’re sad” or “Open me when you’ve had a hard day” written on them; letters of encouragement are inside the jar. It lights up people’s smiles, says Leist, adding that making homemade gifts is a chance to do something more personal, and that the time and effort spent on the gift will benefit both people by bringing them happiness.

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